Athletics Athletics

Kemboi shows who’s boss, Sum soars

Ezekiel Kemboi (left) and Jairus Birech over a barrier in Oregon. Picture/IAAF
Ezekiel Kemboi (left) and Jairus Birech over a barrier in Oregon. Picture/IAAF

NAIROBI, May 31- Peerless two-time Olympics and triple world steeplechase champion, Ezekiel Kemboi showed everyone who bosses the water and barriers race and world women 800m champion, Eunice Sum squeezed through to victory as the fourth Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon closed in spectacular fashion.

Two-time world men 1500m titleholder, Asbel Kiprop lost the famed Bowerman Mile at the revered Hayward Field closing race after opting for bizarre tactics that saw him attack from behind at the home-stretch in an action-filled Prefontaine Classic where the Diamond League men Pole vault record fell to France’s star Renaud Lavillenie.

In the men’s 3000m steeplechase, Kemboi and African champion, Jarius Birech who has stated his intention to dethrone the 33 year-old legend both ran faster than the meeting record of 8:03.59 after chasing each other shoulder to shoulder to the final water jump.

The veteran emerged with a slight lead off the barrier and held it all the way to the finish, winning in 8:01.71 with Birech second in 8:01.83 in a telling reminder to the Commonwealth silver medallist and Diamond League winner it will take something spectacular to dethrone him at the Beijing Worlds this summer.

Kemboi did a small jig and avoided any contact with Birech who follows 2013 Worlds silver medallist, Conseslus Kipruto in calling out the master early in the season.

The women’s 800m witnessed an even closer duel for the finish with Sum and USA’s 2012 world junior champion Ajee Wilson racing clear of their rivals but the Moscow Worlds champion and Commonwealth winner just held off the home favourite and took the win, and the world lead, in 1:57.82. Wilson was just 0.2 away from her personal best in second place with 1:57.87.

-Kiprop shocker-

The final lap of the Bowerman Mile, the signature race at the Prefontaine was extra thrilling because of the presence of local star Matthew Centrowitz but victory appeared gift-wrapped for Kiprop before he contrived to seemingly rob himself of glory.

Clearly in good shape, the lanky Daegu 2011 and Moscow metric mile titleholder hung to the back of the pack until the final back-straight after the bell when he eased himself past the field.

He went on to allow the front runners to open up a 10m lead at the home-stretch before sprinting for the victory but it was too late as the television commentator said, “What was Kiprop doing! That was very stupid from Kiprop!” aghast the world champion could let victory off in such fashion.

The crowd roared as Centrowitz stalked Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman but the latter held his position over the final lap and broke the tape in 3:51.10.

Centrowitz had the best IAAF Diamond League finish of his career to come home second in 3:51.20 and finish ahead of Kiprop.

Commowealth champion, Faith Chepng’etich ran the fastest debut in history as double world champion from 2011 Vivian Cheruiyot, crowned her comeback to the Diamond  League with a podium finish in the women’s 5000m that was totally dominated by Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba.

Genzebe made a valiant effort at her older sister Tirunesh’s seven-year-old world record of 14:11.15 but ultimately, demolished the field to return a career best 14:19.76, the fourth fastest performance in history.

Chepng’etich clocked 14:31.95 that is the quickest ever for a first timer over the distance ahead of Cheruiyot who closed the podium in 14:46.69 in her first Diamond League appearance since resuming her career following a maternal break.

Another Commonwealth titleholder, Mercy Cherono was also led to the altar in the women’s 1500m won by 2011 World champion, Jenny Simpson who uncorked 4:00.98 to better the Kenyan’s 4:01.96, for her personal best over the distance.

In day one of the Pre Classic on Friday, World Cross champion, Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor and Paul Tanui were led to the podium by Britain’s Mo Farah in the men 10000m showdown.

Lavillenie set the Pole vault competition at Hayward Field where he set an outdoor personal best and an IAAF Diamond League record of 6.05m.

The Diamond League moves to Rome Golden Gala on Thursday where Julius Yego, who set a national record while winning the Ostrava Golden Spike IAAF World Challenge meet last week, will be among the Kenyan stars in action.